Effective Discipline Methods for 5 Year Olds

Updated on August 05, 2010
L.S. asks from Chula Vista, CA
18 answers

What are some effective discipline methods for a 5-year-old? I don't know what's gotten into our daughter, but it seems a new phase/stage is brewing and it's driving my husband and I crazy. Our daughter is normally loving and polite, but lately has become very mouthy, makes faces when she doesn't like what we're saying, disregards direct "commands" (for lack of a better word), doesn't listen, etc.

Time outs no longer seem to do it. Taking away television/computer priveleges no longer seem to quell the misbehavior, either. Talks don't have any lasting effect. Besides spanking, what have you moms done to nip this in the bud? For the most part, she's ok when she's just one-on-one w/ my husband and I. But when we're with extended family/friends or even out in public w/ strangers, it starts and doesn't let up. We're frustrated!

BTW, absolutely nothing has changed recenlty in her life in regards to a new sibling, a new home, a new schedule, sleep time, etc. OH, and we are very careful about what she watches on TV; no bad behavior to mimic there, either...

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answers from San Diego on

By saying besides spanking, you really are not looking for discipline advice, times outs, taking away TV/computer priveleges. These are not working because they are not discipline their punishments, The idea is for a child to think I'm not doing that again, cause they don't want to bare the consequences, punishments, don't give most children that thought. J.

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answers from Washington DC on

What really gets my kids, is when I give them chores for punsihment :o). It helps me and their attitudes! If they get really mouthy or disrespectful, and nothing else works...they get to do a chorse they don't like. It's something new so it hasn't worn out yet. Or taking away something like dinner out, playing outside for the evening, etc. My kids are super stubborn and normally don't care about punishments. But this one seems to work. Or also just sitting them on the couch in front of a non-cartoon. News works if it isn't too graphic. They get to sit for how old they are and if they can tell me what they did wrong and apologize, they can get up. I know thats kind of timeout, but a little different.

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answers from Los Angeles on

That happened when my girl turned five also. I think they start bonding and following their friends more. A great book to read is, Hold on to your Kids by Gordon Neuefeld Ph. D. It gave me a whole new perspective.

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answers from Reno on

My mother-in-law used to use "goody tickets" to redirect behavior. The idea is to give your daughter a "goody ticket" when you catch her in the act of behaving correctly. The payoff is that she needs to cash in those tickets for privileges like computer time, tv time, play dates, a special something you'd normally pick up while out shopping, stuff like that. Any thing fun must be "bought" with goody tickets. When your daughter can't "buy" her privileges, her behavior (hopefully) will change.

This worked very well on my otherwise well-behaved eldest son. For my younger son, we had to combine it with LOTS of time in a "bed and clothes" only room, since he was very stubborn about not following family rules.

Another idea you might try is, during a calm moment, you and your husband explaining that when you ask her to do something, the correct answer is always "yes, mom" or "yes, dad." That's it. End of story, period, amen. ANY other response is disobedience and will summarily punished. If your daughter has a concern, she may voice it AFTER she does whatever you ask. In this way, she acknowledges who is in charge (you and your husband) but she also gets a chance to express herself. If she has a good point, you can take it into consideration for the next time.

As for the misbehaving out in public, I discovered my sons, particularly my youngest, did this because they knew I would punish them less if we were out and about. Once I caught on to this, the best solution was to simply leave. If we were at a birthday party and my son(s) got sassy, we thanked the birthday child and parent and left. No fuss, no muss. Their "warning" was given in the car before we joined the party. If we were out shopping and they misbehaved, same thing. We simply left. Once we were home, they got a firm talking to (yelled at on a bad day) and time in their rooms. This was followed by age appropriate chores.

This technique was tough because I had LOTS of interrupted shopping trips and events (you can sit in a quiet room or the car, if it's truly NOT feasible to leave a party early). But, my kids did catch on and they improved.

As for spanking, I reserved that for when they did extreme things, like let go of my hand and run across the street or a busy parking lot. I think this happened once, so I guess the spanking was effective.

Last but not least, check out the book, "Parenting with Love and Logic." It'll give you great ideas that you can use with a smile and really ease the tension in these types of situations. I've used the "Teaching with Love and Logic" concept in my high school classroom for the last several years and it works like a charm.

Good luck.

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answers from San Francisco on

Since she acts out in public with family and friends etc- I would tell her before hand of the way you expect her to carry herself. Tell her what is expected of her and if she chooses not to behave, she will have to face the consequences. Decide beforehand with your husband what the consequences are. For ex. if she is acting out with her cousins, give her a warning, if she continues- follow through and LEAVE and go home. Sometimes kids just have to push your buttons to see how far they can take it with you. Hope this helps.


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answers from Toledo on

Make house rules,including her in the process. Then make consequences for breaking the rules, again with her input. This makes her responsible for her actions and takes all the drama out. She knows absolutely what will happen every time she breaks a rule. Advice from a professional counselor that helped us out raising 5 teenagers-- don't take things away for punishment, add things. A kid will sit in a room stripped of all forms of entertainment and still not mind. Instead, give her chores she hates, like picking up dog poop in the yard, or scrubbing the toilet. Also, a performance chart of some sort to build rewards for doing chores every day will help. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating vegetables, etc. This will focus her on doing good things. You want to encourage and reward good behavior in spades, and don't emphasize the bad any more than necessary.

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answers from Portland on

Like other people said, consequences... my only caution is that you need to make sure they are ones YOU can live with too. If she acts up in public and you told her that if she did that you would leave, then be willing to do it. As a teacher I've learned that choices a la Love and Logic have worked best in my classroom and will hopefully be effective with our son. Is she anticipating starting school soon or anything like that? That can produce anxiety and lead to interesting behaviors. Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

It sounds like a cliche but I used to count. The key is to follow through with whatever you are saying needs to be done immediately. No counting two and a half, and then going back to warnings when you get to three.

Example, "I am going to count to three and I want you standing in front of me by three." When they don't do what you say, you have to do it anyway, bring her over to where you want her to be. Ditto with putting something down, getting into bed etc. They quickly learn that you are serious, and the "thing" will happen whether it's under their steam or yours.

Don't make a big fuss when doing it, but calmly say "OK" if she doesn't do something at 3, then carry out what it is you need to have done. Mine rarely argued because they knew I'd given them fair warning and time to comply.

Even as teens, they now know that when I start counting I really mean something, although there's lots of sighing and eye-rolling now!

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answers from Williamsport on

Besides spanking? That's your problem right there...just sayin'!
check it: www.backtobasicsdiscipline.com Or live on in agony....

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answers from Honolulu on

Its her age... and how other kids may act in school... not that it makes it okay... but what helps our kids is: we explain that they are a PART of a 'family.' We explain what "family" is... and what being a part of it means. That THEY represent the family.. and that we KNOW they know how to behave... and it is a choice. AND in conjunction with that, we teach them ALTERNATIVE ways to behave or "problem solve"... if something is tweaking them.. .AND how to express themselves and 'discuss' things. A kid CAN learn that.... if you teach them. Versus just 'expecting' them to automatically know how. Which they don't.
So you role play with them, teach them OTHER ways of "coping" with frustrations etc.
So the thing is, you have to arm them with SKILLS... too. Not just punishing. You need to teach them coping-skills... for life's frustrations AND how to KNOW their feelings... and express it in a palatable way. So practice with her.... teaching her. When she is calm. Not in the midst of a tantrum... and for us, we teach our kids to "try your best"... versus just 'expecting' PERFECTION. For a kid, they will often try to do what we want... but sometimes they don't even try or get frustrated, because they "cannot' do it EXACTLY like how we may want. SO 'recognize' their efforts too... that they are trying their best. Making it attainable for them....

Next, the book "Have A New Kid By Friday" by Leman is real great. Non-punitive and great tips... easy to read, and practical.

Do not 'argue' with your girl. Just state, calmly, what you expect, giving forewarning... and then if she mouths off or gives attitude.... restrict your "pleasing' her. Do not give in.
No need for treats or rewards. Just your praise, should be enough. Otherwise, they will get used to ONLY getting treats for their behavior.

Next, does she do it when she is over-tired? Or hungry? Kids this age can still act out when they are over-tired or hungry. So then trouble shoot that. Have her nap, or feed her.
My daughter, when that age, would get more testy, when tired or hungry. I knew her cues.... before hell broke loose.

Next, what I have sometimes did is: I tell my kids that they are family.. if they cannot behave and be respectful or 'help' Mommy... then "I" will NOT cooperate with them either... especially when acting like that. And THEN... they 'realize' like a light-bulb... that their behavior is just NOT working and Mommy WILL rescind her cooperation, too. With them. And for me, that works. It teaches them, RECIPROCAL interaction. AND that it is a 2-way street.

all the best, just some quick things of what I do with my kids and that helps,

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answers from San Antonio on

The only thing i can think of is...when it starts and you are out with family and friends take her aside and tell her this is her warning to start behaving like the little lady she is and use her manners. If she does not stop the undesirable behavior you will be taking her straight home. The second she does it again, take her firmly by the arm and say your goodbyes and leave, right then.

When you get home, you can send her to her room for the afternoon or evening...or whatever of her most dreaded consequence would be...no TV, computer, fun interaction, etc. she had her chance for fun interaction and decided to misbehave.

She will probably test you on this twice...but probably not a third time. Only thing I could think of...am curious to read others ideas.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son is the same way... impossible to discipline because he doesn't care what you take away except.... Reading at bedtime. That's the one thing he freaks out about if we take it away. You have to find your daughter's one thing and that is what has to be taken away to show how serious you are. Aside from that, you also have to change the way you to deal with her behavior. Instead of punishing, try positive reinforcement. Make a chart for her. For every day she acts correctly, she gets a sticker. After 10 stickers (not necessarily in a row) she gets a special treat or present. Do this for a couple of months and it will help. Also you have to figure out when the behavior starts and why. Ignore her or don't answer her if she's rude or making faces. If she's bad in public have a discussion before you go out about the behavior you expect. Let her chose one of the activities you are doing so she is more likely to behave when you're out. Part of it is the age... at 5 they start acting more independent and they pick up a lot of crazy things from the kids at camp and school. Just keep reinforcing what is correct behavior and she'll get it.

Good luck! I hope this helps.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Yes, keep skipping the spanking. No one deserves to be hit, no matter what phase of life they are going through.

First ignore the words and faces that you do not like. They are just words and faces like any other. It is our attention to them and dislike of them that gives power to words such as those.
Create clear family rules. Come up with them together so that every one feels a part of the rule making. Keep them limited to about 5. These are family rules, so the grown ups in the family must follow them too. Let her know that you will not continue the conversation until she can speak to you calmly and kindly. It is fine for her to be mad at you but she cannot be rude (and neither can you guys when you are upset at her).
Take a moment to check how the grown ups in the family speak to each other and the rest of the world. You are the models to your kids. You/we must be the people that we would like our kids to be.

Another strategy is to walk away. Let your daughter know that you would like to hear what she has to say, but if she continues to speak the way that she is you will excuse yourself.
If direct commands are not working, try choices.
"I need to go to the market, are you ready now or do you need 5 minutes to finish what you are doing."
If the command is "get dressed" or "clean up" and she refuses, then she is stuck. She cannot move onto the next activity. No movie, book, toy, game, park......until what she is doing gets resolved.
"You need to clean up, is there any part that you would like to keep out and work on later?"

Stay calm, stay focused and state clearly what you want and how you feel when you are not heard.


Because nothing is more important than family

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answers from Las Vegas on

I have found positive reinforcement to be a much more effective way at getting the behaviors I want out of my 5 year old than punishment or nagging. Punishment just does not work. You need to find a way to catch your daughter doing something right and recognize that behavior in a tangible way. The token system is one way to do this. Briefly, when a kid does something right, you give them a poker chip. When they save up enough poker chips, they can trade them in for a toy or something they want. I'll give you an example from my own life. I wanted my son to get himself dressed in the morning because I was sick of having to chase him down and force clothes on his body. Not a pleasant way to start the day! So, I started giving him one poker chip every morning if he was dressed when it was time to leave. Now, even on weekends, he is dressed with shoes on and everything. It's automatic. I also got him to consistently clean the playroom, do the dishes (as best a five year old can, LOL), and wipe his own butt this way. He is a happier child as a result because he does not have to rely on mommy to pick out his clothes or help him with every little task! He really seems to feel better about himself and he is learning to be responsible for himself/make the right choices. The ability to trade the tokens in for a new toy is not in itself the main motivation. It seems that getting the recognition from me that he has done something right--i.e., just getting the token, a high five, and a "well done"--is more rewarding for him that anything else. I think something like the token system will work for your daughter. She is probably acting up because she wants your attention. That is all. You don't want to tolerate negative behavior, and you will still need to work with her on how to get what she wants/express herself in an acceptable way (another tokenable opportunity), but do catch her doing something good. If you try this, I think you will find that she actually will come to need LESS of your attention, and be a happier child, and you will be a happier parent too. Best of luck.



answers from Los Angeles on

I know some people won't like this but I'm a firm believer in spankings. When all else fells a pop on the leg, butt or hand will do the trick. Now I didn't say beat her lol just pop that butt and she'll straighten up.
FYI: I'm a mother of 3 kids ages 18, 11 and 1 :)
good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

I do not believe in spanking time out works at home how about telling you will not let her wtch what she wants on tv for 1 day maybe that will make an imression on her good luck raised4 and now have7 grandchildren A. no hills





answers from Los Angeles on

Parenting vs disciplining

You are the parent, you set the guidelines. Parenting your child is “disciplining”…BUT PLEASE USE THE correct meaning of the word - the term discipline really means - a system of rules of conduct or method of practice - so PRACTICE being the parent you want around your child and allow the child to PRACTICE being the child that you want. If there is an action you don't like say what you DO like. You are the guide, the role model, the final decision. Children of all ages do not need another friend, they need boundaries, they need rules and guidelines AND just as important, they need flexibility.

TALKING BACK...just say “We don't talk like that in this family, are you part of this family?” The answer will be yes - (in the rare case a child says no - then ask him who's family he thinks he is a part of – and offer to drive them there! LOL!) Then you repeat it, “We don't talk like that in this family”. Then redirect the situation. There is NO PUNISHMENT, there is only fact. “This family is respectful. This family is kind. This family honors everyone”. If you let the behaviour go once (and punishing it is letting it go), the child will decide when and where to use that behaviour again. Kids are brilliant. They remember everything! They will remember if the "punishment" was worth the action.

TIME OUT - Here is the problem with "time out", kids learn to weigh the time away with what the "crime" is. They often feel that a couple of minutes in "the chair" is worth it. And truly, who is the time out for, you or the child? Often it is for the parent because they need a break.

Consequences, are both good and bad. The definition of consequence is: Something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition. That means, both positive and negative. Punishment is ineffective (think about it...how many adults who get a speeding ticket speed again?). Parenting must come from a systematic approach to the entire child, family included.

Does this help?

Family Success Coach



answers from Los Angeles on

my 4 year old also is becoming more and more head strong..i still do the hug it out thing..when he is losing it and being too out there or rude i hug him and i say "do you need a hug?" i never timed out til this age..and he just seems to take the time out then come back acting up..hugging him usually calms him down..the teachers at my son's school say he's different at home b/c he's well behaved at school..and they've praised me and said i'm a good mother..i think all the hugging it out stuff makes for a happier child and i think they just want attention.

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